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Choosing a Quality Carpet

October 31 2009

Choosing quality carpet for an existing or new home is challenging due to the wide variety of carpeting choices available today.

You want the most value for your money, so how do you choose which carpet will wear the best for your home and lifestyle? 

High or low traffic?

The key to carpet durability comes from selecting the right style and fiber, suggests the Carpet and Rug Institute, http://www.carpet-rug.org.  

Buyers can choose carpets appropriate for particular rooms, based on whether the room is formal or casual, and how much traffic it will endure. This will tell you whether you want a smooth or textured pile.

Pile is comprised of the fibers. A thick pile is more durable, and provides more cushion under the feet. Thicker pile is also more costly, as there are more fibers per inch to create a denser product.

Types of carpet

There are several types of carpet available, including: 

Textured  – carpet in which the fibers are cut at various lengths.  Textured carpets bear high traffic areas well. Textured carpets include Frieze (knobby appearance),l Looped (Berber), Cable (dense, soft, looped)  and Cut and Loop (varied textures.)

The trendy Cut and Loop can be put in any room.  The variation of surface textures in a cut and loop style creates a variety of pattern effects and design options in contemporary, casual, and traditional decors.

Saxony or Plush – dense, plush carpet with an even pile height, Saxony carpet is ideal for formal living and dining areas and master bedrooms.

Fiber quality

The next key to carpet selection is fiber.  Quality can be enhanced by the twist and heat set of the fibers, as well as the density of the tufts.  

Generally, “the shorter, the tighter the twist, the denser, the better the carpet”, goes an old saying in the carpet business, as quoted by Carpet Guru, http://www.carpetguru.com.     

Synthetic fibers make up over 90% of today’s carpets, according to the World Floor Covering Association, http://www.wfca.org.  

Nylon is the leader for appearance, fade and heat resistance and soil and stain resistance, with the most variety in color and styling options. Other synthetic options include those made of olefin or polypropylene (most often used in loop pile construction), and polyester (luxurious, soft texture). 
The most expensive fiber is wool.  Also soft and high in density, the WFCA states that wool cleans well, but doesn’t stand up to abrasion and moisture as well as synthetics.

Which carpet is better?

Major carpet manufacturers such as Mohawk, Karastan, and Shaw take the guesswork out of carpet comparisons by offering performance ratings on their products. 

Once you’ve determined the purpose, traffic patterns and performance expectations of the carpet, your selection can easily be narrowed by consulting the rating found on the manufacturing label. A lower rating, however, may not mean a lesser quality carpet, but one that is not expected to compete with the top end carpet sold by the brand. 

Manufacturers today also have carpet pad guidelines, advises the Carpet Guru, and if not followed, will void the carpet warranty.  Again, consult the manufacturer’s label on guidelines.   

Shop for value

Before you buy, make sure you are paying for density. Dig your fingers into the pile. If they reach the backing quickly, the carpet isn’t packed densely enough with fibers.

Look for tight tuft twists. Lower-priced carpets will have loose tuft twists in the fibers.

Comparison shop for the best price. One store may charge much more for the same carpet, more for the pad, or more for the installation. 

Buying better quality pays in the long run. A good carpet can last you 10 to 20 years, while a cheap carpet can wear out quickly.